By Michael C. Mack
Jesus often used his disciples’ shortsighted questions (e.g., Mark 10:37; John 14:5; Mark 13:4), to teach them truth about himself, his ministry, the kingdom of God, and themselves. Perhaps we can learn some things as well.
Shortly before Jesus’ ascension, his disciples asked one last question: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). This was not an unusual question for Jewish people during this period. For a long time, they had wondered when Israel would finally be freed from Roman occupation and oppression. The question came from nationalistic hopes rooted deeply in their Jewish culture and religion. Jesus didn’t chastise them for asking; at least it demonstrated their faith that he was the Messiah. He simply told them not to worry about times and dates . . . that God would act in his own timing to restore the Israelite nation. They were simply to trust him.
Jesus then redirected their attention from political, nationalistic thinking to eternal kingdom thinking and action. Stop worrying about that . . . and start focusing on this: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That was Jesus’ vision for his disciples then—to be his witnesses wherever he would take them—and it still is today.
The question being asked by many American churchgoers today is this: “When will God bring revival to this nation and restore our Christian foundations?” The desire for a country based on Christian morality and for revival is not unlike the concern in Jesus’ day for the restoration of Israel, its freedom, and economic prosperity. Today’s question has nationalistic hopes for a return to biblical values. It seeks a freedom of sorts from a secular, non-Christian, even anti-Christian culture and the new rules imposed on believers that oppose our Christian beliefs and oppress those who hold them.
Before his ascension, Jesus wanted to make sure his first disciples had their kingdom priorities straight . . . and I can think of no reason he wouldn’t want the same for his disciples today. He cares—and wants us to care—primarily about God’s kingdom, not ours. Perhaps Jesus is redirecting us back to his vision and agenda: Stop worrying about that . . . and start focusing on this . . .
The people who converged on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, carried with them a vision for America. Many of the protestors, some of whom turned into insurgents, also carried with them emblems of their faith (some mingled with nationalistic symbolism): the Christian flag; ichthus flags; an American flag with the words, “Make America Godly Again” written on its white stripes; many signs bearing Christian/patriotic slogans; a large wooden cross erected across from the Capitol; and others.
The hats on the heads of the January 6 protestors made clear their mission: “Make America Great Again.” I believe Jesus would redirect his followers and replace that nationalistic sentiment with his mission, imploring us to “seek first his kingdom” by being his witnesses and making disciples. He would assure us we can trust the Father to restore this and every country to God’s original design—a new Creation (Revelation 21–22)—in his timing and according to his plan. Which means we can, and should, stop expending so much energy on that and focus instead on eternal kingdom thinking, mission, and action.
As a mentor recently reminded me, true revival only comes as people’s hearts are changed as they follow Jesus, not via political revolution. As God’s kingdom advances, transformation will come to the lives of individuals, then cities, then nations, and then all the world.
Let’s “Make Authentic Disciples Again”!
America (and “all nations”) will become truly great when followers of Jesus simply obey his Great Commission . . . making authentic disciples again and again and again . . . until the very end of the age.
Michael C. Mack serves as editor of Christian Standard.
(Image: Detail of photo from U.S. Capitol grounds, Jan. 6, 2021, courtesy of Elvert Barnes/Wikimedia Commons.)